What is the summer slide?
The summer slide is a regression in academic proficiency due to summer break. When students don’t practice the skills they’ve learned through the three months of summer, the learning degrades.
When the next school year begins, teachers are tasked with assessing the impact of the summer slide and reviewing concepts students learned the year prior so they can start introducing topics for the new grade level. Teachers spend an estimated six weeks re-teaching concepts from the year before. The slow start every fall causes lessons to be rushed toward the end of the year as state testing approaches.
Without intervention, the summer slide can cumulatively stack until a student is months behind in high school, unable to catch up. This leads to the growth of the achievement gap among students.
Who is affected by the summer slide?
Young elementary students are most affected by the summer slide because they learn the most during the year. Learning at a young age is compounded due to the fast development of children’s brains. Because they learn so steadily in early elementary school, students have more to lose during the summer without reinforcements. However, all grade levels can slide during the summer.
This lack of retention often builds for low-income students throughout their academic careers. The summer slide from younger years inhibits them through middle and high school because the slide is cumulative, and they don’t have access to the remedial resources they need.
How can you avoid the summer slide?
Encourage your student to read whatever they want during the summer. Visit the library and allow them to choose their own books. When they can choose their own material, they are more likely to enjoy reading, increase in frequency and duration, and maintain their skills. Parents can set a positive example by spending time reading. Students who see their parents enjoy reading are more likely to pick up the hobby themselves.
Scholastic offers a free summer reading program with developmentally appropriate book suggestions and activities from May through August. Local libraries also usually host interactive summer reading programs.
- Summer school
For more targeted practice in a subject, look into your district’s summer school or virtual summer school options. By continuing lessons during the summer, students can accelerate into the next school year and stay on track with their classmates.
- Online learning games
Encourage your student to play online educational games to hone their skills as they play. Fun Brain has games sorted by grade level. Education.com has games sorted by concept. ABCya also has an extensive library of games. Quartile offers a free Summer Math Challenge.
- Field trips
Take some time to visit your local museums, zoos, farms and manufacturing facilities. Tours are a highly educational experience for children, plus they are fun and memorable for the whole family. They give students an idea of the local jobs available for their future. Students will be exposed to engineering, manufacturing, horticulture and zoology. The sciences shine in these experiences and may peak student interest.
- Get outside
Explore local parks and go to the pool. The environment is ripe for learning. Discuss academic concepts in real-life situations, such as why the pool water warms throughout a sunny day or the photosynthesis within your neighborhood plants. Look for animals and research their life cycles. Learn about your local ecosystems and how humans affect them.
- Cook together
Cooking reinforces math skills in a fun, interactive way. Use a recipe to practice addition and fractions. Double a recipe and ask your student to double the measurements. Discuss measurement conversions between US customary units and the metric system. Your student may not even realize they are learning as they practice their skills. Enjoy the food together and pridefully share with others.
Overall, students need simple learning opportunities during the summer to help them practice the academic skills they learned during the school year. With some reinforcement, students can avoid the summer slide, which will help them succeed for their whole academic careers.
Parent support is crucial for students to participate. Encourage your students to engage in learning activities and give them positive reinforcement. By making it a fun part of the day, children won’t feel forced into activities or think of these assignments as a punishment. Find lighthearted learning opportunities for the whole family to enjoy together.
Make sure to take a break. Your student has worked hard during the year, so it is important to give them a good break. They should enjoy their summer and be rested, reinvigorated, and motivated in August when the next school year starts.
To avoid the summer slide, incorporate practicing skills into everyday activities. Make it fun and give your student choices, so they can control their learning. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Quick 10-20 minute activities are highly effective. A little practice goes a long way in helping your student succeed year after year.